Leaves swirl up and around us as we drive down the road from Ypres and as we pass under the trees, they continue to drop on to the windscreen. A full European autumn is an amazing experience. Again, it is raining, reflecting our emotions. My how our senses are heightened today. We have become used to the idea of going home, but gosh, how I wish we had more time here. Our last little time as we leave Belgium is spent letting Michael have a quick look around the New Poperinge Military Cemetery where there are a few Australian tombs scattered amongst the French ones.
Then, without the need for a real rush, we set Kate to direct us to the Eurotunnel departure point off the motorways and are so rewarded for doing so. There are cows grazing in the meadows and windmills on the hills - quite a few of them! We pass through the autumn rain and look out over valleys shining in rare spots of sunshine. The air is so crisp and clean and the colours are so vibrant.
We come in to France for the last time this trip and it is as beautiful as we remember it from the numerous trips we have made across the country over the last eleven months. The villages seem to be hugging the roads as though to say goodbye - yep, we are again passing those houses built right to the edge of the roads. Autumn here is a very busy place here and we pass lots of mounds of swedes (yellow turnips) and sweet potatoes recently dug and now set for drying. And the farmers are busy ploughing and fertilizing their fields. You know everywhere we have been there are a few constants - the smell of 'fresh' fertilizer, the heavy density of livestock and the farm implements pulled along the back roads by tractors!
All too soon (but not too soon) we arrive at Calais at the Eurotunnel terminal. As we pull up to the ticket tag machine it 'recognises' the registration number of the car and automatically prints our windscreen tag. We just have enough time (6 minutes) before they make the first boarding call to allow Michael to go and change our last Euros for UK pounds. Then, through border control and we join the first couple of cars waiting to be loaded on to the train. And then, just after 13:00 pm we are loaded on to the train and at 13:20 pm we leave the continent of Europe for the last time in 2009 for the fast half hour journey under the weight of the English Channel back to the UK.
And then without any fanfare (just a voiceless reminder on the intercom to remember to turn our clocks back an hour and to drive on the left) we are back in England - back on the 'right' or rather make that the correct side of the road! We are back in the land of small roads again - passing cars so closely on the local main roads that I wonder if we are not going to lose our side mirror.
We have decided to spend a couple of days in the south east of England having a bit of a look around the only part of England that we did not see when we were here earlier in the year. We have booked in to The Dog Inn in Wingham, near Canterbury. The building dates back to the early 13th century and our room on the first floor is supported by the most amazing big beam. The public areas downstairs are warm and the fireplaces are roaring away, keeping the cold outdoors where it belongs. The ceilings are lined with hops, now dried after hanging there for a year. This is no so much a pub, as a restaurant with rooms. We meet Dan behind the bar and Austin in the kitchen. Something that Austin is cooking smells fabulous and wse go to the kitchen door to find out what it is - ah, rabbit for a dish for tomorrow.
So we go up to take our luggage and unpack the barest of things as we have become accustomed to doing before heading back downstairs for dinner. The menu is surprisingly well developed with traditional foods presented in very modern combinations - something we are not expecting. After agonising on the offerings we choose -
Sherry's duck egg crostini with a poached egg, wilted spinach, curry oil (Michael)
Rillette of wild rabbit and smoked bacon, sweet plum tomato chutney, walnut bread toast (Maria)
'The Carpet Bag' Roast fillet of beef stuffed with oysters, streaky bacon waist coat, grill garnish, bearnaise sauce and chis (Michael)
Breast of free range chicken, crispy parma ham, white pudding, cream tarragon dressing (Maria)
Sticky toffee pudding and vanilla seed cream (Michael)
Dark chocolate loaf, black cherries in kirsch (Maria)
Wow, what a meal. Congratulations to Austin who has managed to achieve the same level of finesse that we have experienced in meakls in France. We retire satisfyingly full to retire to our warm bed for the night.